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Large Tuna Fishing Companies Threatening Pacific Food Security

17 November 2014

GLOBAL - Food security in Pacific countries like Kiribati could be under threat if oversized tuna vessels are allowed to continue fishing at current rates, commented Greenpeace.

The warning follows the release of a video featuring fishermen from Kiribati experiencing dwindling tuna catches and struggling to feed their families. On 4 November Greenpeace also released a report naming 20 examples of the world’s most destructive fishing vessels. Among them, these Spanish vessels fishing in the Pacific.

“Local Kiribati fishermen say it’s getting harder to catch tuna to feed their families, and this observation matches current science on the state of Pacific tuna,” said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Lagi Toribau.

“Bigeye tuna is down to just 16 per cent of its original population size, and foreign longliners and purse seine vessels like the Spanish owned Albatun Tres and Albacora Uno are largely to blame,” he said.

“These two vessels catch as much tuna in three fishing trips as the entire Kiribati artisanal fleet catches in a year.”

The Albatun Tres and Albacora Uno are among the largest tuna fishing boats in the world. The two vessels fish in the Kiribati economic exclusion zone under a bilateral agreement with the EU. Unlike the local Kiribati fishermen who fish sustainably, the Albatun Tres and Albacora Uno employ fish aggregation devices (FADs) that result in juvenile bigeye and yellowfin being caught before they have had a chance to breed. In addition to that, the Albacora Uno has been repeatedly fined for illegal fishing in the Pacific.

“For most Kiribati people, tuna is the primary source of protein - on some islands, it is the only source. If Kiribati people can’t catch tuna, they go hungry,” said Mr Toribau.

The company behind the Albatun Tres and Albacora Uno - Albacora group - claims to be the biggest tuna fishing group in Europe, with revenues roughly triple the GDP of Kiribati.

“Pacific island countries receive less than 10 per cent of the value of their fisheries. How is that fair?” said Mr Toribau.

"The EU must play its part in reducing foreign fishing capacity in the region by taking the most destructive and oversized vessels off the water to allow big eye and other tuna stocks to recover and local, low impact fishing communities in Pacific island countries to flourish. It should also use its influence on Asian countries that participate in the fishery to ensure they follow suit. Only if fishing is kept within sustainable levels and if the EU is willing to pay a fair prices for access to the fishing grounds, is the presence of EU vessels welcome,” he said.

Greenpeace launched a global campaign last week calling on people to support low impact fishers and help ensure fair fishing. By focusing attention on some of the top culprits of global overfishing, the campaign challenges governments to eliminate excessive fishing capacity and to give preferential access to fishing opportunities to low-impact fishers as required under the new EU Common Fisheries Policy.

Greenpeace is urging Pacific Island countries, over time, to transform their fisheries to a local, sustainable model.

TheFishSite News Desk

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